Dutch friends, new bling


Aquamarine and sapphire pendant, about 1 1/4 x 7/8 inches

My mom loves the Netherlands.  She loves the wide-open green flatness, the canals, the skinny city houses,  the Noordzee, and the spring flowers.  But most of all, she loves the Dutch.  There was never a Friday when she left the office without her Dutch coworkers making sure she had plans, never a moment when she didn’t feel welcomed and included.  While she’s enjoyed the people most everywhere she’s worked around the world, the Dutch became family.

After years spent living and working in The Hague,  my mom has come home for a job in San Diego.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make.  While there were many compelling reasons to move back to the States, it was so very hard for her to leave her friends; her Dutch family.

As my mom readied herself for the move to San Diego, her beautiful friend Susanne emailed–on behalf of all the Dutch friends– to ask me for ideas for a parting gift.  I suggested they take her for a tattoo, but the Dutch are way classier than me: they opted for jewelry, and ordered my Aquamarine Waterfall Pendant.

aquamarine and moonstone Waterfall Pendant

And that would have worked out just fine, if my mother wasn’t so damn full of damn opinions.  Luckily, her Dutch friends know that she’s a veritable opinion piñata.

Mom asked that I use a stone she already had  instead of the aquamarine cabochon (above) my design called for.  Her stone was a big, gorgeous, faceted aquamarine she had purchased from a British friend in The Hague  shortly before he died (we’re going to call that the new aquamarine from here on).

The challenges? The new aquamarine wasn’t interchangeable with the stone in my design, and a new design was needed to account for the stone’s unique attributes.  I did, however, need to keep with the two-stone look of the pendant I had been asked to make.

Where the original aquamarine cab in the design was all about watery relaxation, the faceted aquamarine was all sparkle and glamour, and just didn’t work well with the laid-back moonstone cabochon of the original pairing.  I opted to pair the new aquamarine with a gorgeous cornflower blue, flower-cut sapphire.

Another challenge was the cut of the new aquamarine: the stone was incredibly deep--half as deep as it was wide– and I needed my design to creatively account for that depth; to allow the face of the sapphire to be on the same plane as the face of the aqua, without looking awkward.

My  solution: A medieval-looking b0x setting,  stones set with prongs to keep them open and airy.

I hope all of my mother’s Dutch friends love what I came up with, I’m really pleased with my design, and my mom loved it.  After gasping, she declared, “I’m going to get mugged wearing this!”

And that is high praise from the Bling Jedi Master.

*Thanks Mom, for the image!


Personal Entries · Studio

New camera: a photographic orgy

Have you noticed, my ducklings, that I haven’t posted any photographs in ages?  That’s because my camera died.  But!  A new one is arriving tomorrow, and then there will be an orgy of photography going on at the Vaka Design photography studio.

You know, I’ve noticed that when I use profane or graphic language in my posts, my views plummet.  Obviously, the language causes the site to be censored in searches and by the blog rolls which pick it up.  This time I didn’t even mean to be profane, and I’ll totally get censored anyway.  This time I was just being accurate.


1.   wild, drunken or licentious festivity or revelry. 

My mother is flying in from the Netherlands today;  from the land where  Dutch veins run with lager, thoughts of legal prostitution, and THC.   So yes, some drinking during the photoshoot is likely, and between Karen and my Mom?  Jeesh!  I’ll be the only sober voice of reason to be found, and that’s saying something.  Things have deteriorated badly when I am the voice of reason.
Licentious?  Not strictly so, but I will make that camera my bitch.
2.   uncontrolled or immoderate indulgence in an activity: an orgy of spending.
We have a huge number of pieces to photograph, and while I’m eager to post my own,  I’m excited for you to see what Karen has been working on.  Dude has seriously found her groove, and is churning out some very pretty stuff: pierced and layered silver pieces, some which look almost medieval. 
Brushed gold, diamonds, silver, white gold, earrings, necklaces, bi-metal pendants, lions and tigers and bears.
There is nothing moderate about all the awesome we will be shooting with my new bitch.
3.   orgies, (in ancient Greece) esoteric religious rituals, esp. in the worship of Demeter or Dionysus, characterized in later times by wild dancing, singing, and drinking.
Nope, not applicable.  Unless we find a young Greek guy named Dionysus, give him a glass of wine and allow him to be our eye candy, a la Madonna’s twenty-four year old boytoy, Jesus.  That might be a religious experience. 
4.  Informal. a boisterous, rowdy party.


 To describe my upcoming photodocumentation of new work  as an orgy of photography is grammatically precise.  I don’t care what the fucking censors say.

Media and Art

Sinterklaas Day

Update:  My Mom, who might or might not be drunk, has clarified: Sinterklaas and his crew of good-friends-who-used-to-be-slaves have been around town for about two weeks, but tonight is the big night where they break into people’s houses. Tomorrow they will leave for Spain, thereby breaking international law by transporting the Dutch children they have kidnapped over international borders.  My mother is helping.

My Mom, who lives in The Netherlands, tells me today’s the day!  Sinterklaas and  Swarte Pete have arrived in Den Hague, and will roam The Netherlands for the next several weeks.  They will either beat and kidnap children, or give them little treats.  You never know.  The Dutch, they’re different.

David Sedaris, reading one of my favorite of his stories, “Six to Eight Black Men”

Personal Entries

Naked Dutch men

“Babe, I walked for an hour in one direction, and an hour and a half in the other, and no sea glass for you.”  My Mom has just scoured the beaches near her home in The Netherlands for me, and I do appreciate this.  I asked if she would do this because I thought setting some seaglass from The Netherlands would be incredibly cool.

“All that Dutch beer in green bottles, ” she continues, “and the Dutch can’t break a bottle and throw it in the ocean?”

“Well, maybe they’re very environmentally conscious, the Dutch.”

“Let me tell you about THAT,” says my mother. “When I walked an hour and a half to the left I came to a nude beach that was all men!  Nude men everywhere!  As I came up on it I was thinking ‘well, there are a lot of nude-colored bathing suits up ahead,’ and then when I got there, there weren’t any suits at all!”

My mother is very animated, and clearly tickled by her own badassary of walking calmly through swarms of naked Dutch men.

“They were very friendly!”

“I’m sure they were.” I say. “But were they men who should be nude, or more ‘oh honey, I wish you weren’t so nude right now’ ? “

“Oh no,” my mother says emphatically, “Absolutely.  These guys should be nude.”

“Well, that is great! ” I say.  Worse things can happen in your day than stumbling upon a beach of attractive naked Dutch men.

“But the odd thing, the oddest thing–“

“Odder than my mother hanging out with a bunch of naked Dutch guys?”

“Yes, but the odd thing,” she doesn’t break stride because, clearly, we’ve arrived at the main titillation, “back from the water–in the dunes–I kept seeing naked Dutch men popping up and looking around–“

“Like naked Dutch jack-in-the-boxes?”

Exactly. Nothing but dunes, and then a naked man would stand up, look around, and disappear.  I don’t think they were sunbathing back there.”

“Huh,” I say.  “You don’t know, maybe they just wanted to get out of the wind. “

“I don’t know,” she says, dragging out the three words to imply that she does not think the wind was the reason for Dutch dune jack-in-the-box.

” But,” she continues, “Long story short. One: no seaglass for you, babe. And two: lots of naked Dutch men.”

“Well, thanks for that.”

“You’re welcome, babe.”

Personal Entries

My Mother is not a spy

When I tell people my mother lives in The Netherlands, their reactions differ according to sex and age.

The women say something like, “Oh, The Netherlands!  All those tulips!”

Young adults?  “You know weed is legal there?”

But on more than one occasion I’ve been inexplicably asked, “Does she work for the State Department?  She a spy?”    Only men have asked me this, and I’ve wondered if the men among Charlotte’s IBM/banking community are just a paranoid bunch.

I got an email along those lines after yesterday’s post:

….and I hope I’m not too forward in inquiring if your mother works for the USA gov’t?

Seriously?  Huh.

My mother has lived in the UK, Germany, and Singapore, but it’s only The Netherlands which has earned this response.  I’m not sure how Mom+ The Netherlands= International Espionage, and it makes me wonder if there is something about The Netherlands that I don’t know.  I don’t think my sister has ever been asked this question about our mother, and so maybe it’s something about me. Maybe I just seem like the daughter of an international spy?  I’d like to believe I do.

But my mother is not a spy.  I’m almost certain of this, because she’s worse at keeping secrets than I am.  She makes a pretense of acting as if it will save you, somehow, if she tells you her secret; gives you your surprise early.

In August she’ll tell me, “Honey, I don’t want you to worry about your feet being cold this winter,  because I bought you the most gorgeous boots for Christmas.”

She’ll then explain her need to give me the boots right then, adding with finality, “Now this is IT for Christmas.  And I can’t do any more!   But I do want you to have them now so your feet won’t be cold. You won’t be disappointed if you don’t have something to open at Christmas, will you? Because, girl, This. Is. It.”

A month or so later, after she inquires about how the boots are wearing, she’ll hesitate for the tiniest wee fraction of a second before sighing and saying, ” Well, you’ll need the  earrings I just bought you for Christmas to go with those boots.”  As if she has no choice but to give them to me, as if the universe might find fault with her if she doesn’t.  And then she’ll give me the earrings because the boots neeeed them….and go get another gift.  She will save my life, yet again, by giving the next gift to me before Christmas, as well.  And in this manner I’ll be quite well dressed by Christmas, when I open my Christmas present.

Does this woman sound like she could be a spy?  She couldn’t find the time to gather state secrets unless they were downtown in the The Hague’s shopping district, mixed in with all the cute new things to buy.

Media and Art

Tom Otterness

My mother lives in The Netherlands, and I fell in love with a little museum there when I visited her in The Hague.

Museum Beelden aan Zee sits by the ocean and houses a collection of contemporary figurative sculpture.   While most pieces in the museum’s collection are obviously, if abstractly, figurative, some cause you to stop and wonder how they relate to the body. Some make you uncomfortable, some are stand-outs simply because of their innovative execution,  some make you laugh, and in fine art that is unusual.

On the terrace in front of the museum sit twenty three enormous, whimsical pieces illustrating fairy tales, by the American sculptor Tom Otterness.   Otterness’s style is simple and almost cartoonish, and if the pieces were smaller they would merely be cute.   Because of their scale, though, they are imposingly playful.  In the work “Mama Es Boos (Mad Mama), Otterness plays with the juxtaposition of scale, making the looming, angry Mama more fearsome for being disproportionately larger than her three offspring.  But Otterness’s sweet stick- figure Mama could never be mean, she’s just mad.  Through his cartoonish depiction of the human body and his grand scale, he’s perfectly captured a very familiar moment: an angry mother and her three nonplussed children.  This is one of my favorite sculptures.

"Mama Es Boos" Tom Otterness


Figurative work pull at me in a way other subject matter doesn’t, probably because I’m a very physical person and I love using my own body well.  I love the way the body works: the look of muscles under skin, the shapes and spaces  and angles created by the positioning of limbs, the way the body changes as it ages.  Is there is any story the human body can’t tell, any idea which can’t be explored through the figure?

A professor once told me that once you can draw the human body, you can draw anything, and he’s right. To depict the human body correctly is difficult, to bring it to life and imbue it will context and meaning seemingly effortlessly creates the moment when art comes alive and draws you in.  It’s this mastery which allows the viewer to put aside everything else and experience a conversation with that piece.

Tom Otterness’s sculptures create a playground of art, and so the experience his mastery allows is a bit different from other “serious” art.    It’s an experience of joy and playfulness and childlike responses, but it’s no less important an experience for being lighthearted.

Personal Entries

Karen hates Scotland

I’m saddened, as Karen is more than a reader, but also a friend, and usually an open-minded lass.

Sunday Videos created an oppurtunity for Karen to show her Anti-Scots leanings, of which I was not previously aware.

This weekend, while watching 80’s music videos, Jake realized that teenage hair was a lot more fun 20 years ago, and he decided his tame look needed an overhaul. As we finished the Sunday Videos post featuring R.E.M., Jake announced he was getting a mohawk, and jokingly added that a Michael Stipe-esque eye stripe would be just the thing to finish the look. And then he threw in that he’d be wearing a kilt with this look, too. I don’t know where that came from.

I mentioned Jake’s look in the post, and told my readers Jake would be happy for color/placement suggestions for his Stipe Stripe.

First, Karen was very helpful, suggesting in the comments section:

Perhaps he could combine the two: shave the entire head, EXCEPT for the very front of the hairline, leaving a horizontal strip of hair about an inch wide all the way across the front of the forehead. With a bit more length 3-4″ (and judicious use of hair product) you could cultivate a hair stripe to fall over the forehead and eyes.

Which could then be spliced into the beard at a future date.

I felt this was a great idea, and I passed it along to Jake. I responded to Karen’s comment with my own:

Maybe dye the hair stripe…….Jake is thinking he might also like to explore wearing a kilt (breeze on the manliness and all), and so we need to keep in mind plaid, too

And then Karen showed her true colors, and commented:

Yes indeed, when I picture a fellow with a hair fringe/eye stripe/mohawk combo, in a kilt no less — personal items dancing in the breeze — MANLY is the first word that pops into MY head!

What an impression he could make on new acquaintances!

I believe Karen has just mocked not only William Wallace and his brave army of painted freedom fighters, but the very cornerstone of Scots history: the Picts with their painted faces. And to that I say, why do you have to hate on William Wallace? Why do you have to go there? Why malign the Picts? The Scots are proud, as they have every right to be, of their strong and brave heritage; of their plaid, of their fight for independence. Karen has intimated that a Scotsman proudly wearing his kilt is anything but manly; she implies he is not a man at all.

I’m always pleased when a reader seems to be following along, and it seems Karen has been, with her allusion to beards and kilts in previous posts, and on that? Keep up the good work, Karen!

But I’d like to distance myself from her harsh commentary of Scotland’s great history. I admire the Scottish people, their spirit and intelligence, and their beautiful country, even if one of my readers does not. Scotland is number one on my list of places I’ve always wanted to visit, and I’m just waiting for an opportunity to do so.

My darling readers, I hope you will join me in condemning Karen’s small-mindedness.